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Al Jaffee (1921-2023).

§ April 13th, 2023 § Filed under mad magazine, obituary § 4 Comments

So on the occasion of Al Jaffee’s 99th birthday (and my 51st) I wrote about getting this wonderful book:

…which remains one of my prize possessions. Like I said in that post, I was but a young Mikester and had to save my allowance a bit to afford this extravagant purchase. But it was money well invested, as the book was provided me many solid laughs over the decades, not just from reading it but simply from remembering it and the joy it brought me.

One of my favorite articles in that book, and one that still comes unbidden to my mind on a more regular basis than you might think, is the one where Jaffee built actual physical models of purported kids’ drawings:

It’s an odd example of Jaffee’s work, as it doesn’t showcase his illustrations (aside from those alleged kid drawings) but it’s memorable nonetheless.

And as per my last post, I found at least one of the MAD paperbacks pictured on Mark Evanier’s site, MAD Monstrosities:

Alas, nearly all my paperback books remain boxed up and not terribly easy to access, but I did manage to find this one. My MAD Book of Magic remains AWOL, but I know it’s around here somewhere. But Monstrosities is filled with great mostly full-page cartooning filled with delightful grotesqueries as only Jaffee can lay them down on the page. I don’t know how long I’ve had this, but I must have picked it up during my prime MAD reading age, so probably around 1979-1981.

Searching my shelves I found another book that, frankly, I’d forgotten I had:

Based on the price sticker in the corner, this was obviously a thrift store pick-up. I’m not the biggest fan of the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” gags…I mean, I like ’em fine, obviously enough to drop $1.99 on this book, but I always preferred Jaffee’s other efforts. But his artwork is always wonderful to behold, especially in this larger format (and no one does A Prance quite like Jaffee, as you can see on that person on the left of the cover there). Plus, I do have to say I did always like the added touch of an extra empty word balloon for you to add your own Snappy Comeback. Were they as snappy as Big Al’s? Probably not, but it was nice of him to offer you the chance.

Also, come to think of it, that’s kind of a Snappy Answer to a Stupid Question on the cover of that Monstrosities book, isn’t there? It’s also interesting that “Snappy Answers” is what’s referenced on the cover, and not “Fold-ins” but, as shown on the cover, you were likely to get more of one than the other in here, and why remind people of a feature that’s not present in the book?

What he’s probably going down in history for is the aforementioned Fold-ins, a play on the “Fold-Outs” you might find in, say, certain gentlemen’s magazines of note. It’s clever, it’s intriguing (as you try to guess the final image before folding and finding out), and a little annoying if you’re a comic shop owner dealing in old comics and magazines and you have to grade down most MADs you get in because the back cover is creased. But, such is the sacrifice for art.

And what art it was. I didn’t even mention his “Hawks and Doves” strips. Or the articles about new, needed inventions or how he drew the absolutely best vomit in the biz. Or that one issue of MAD where instead of a Fold-In he created a gag strip where if you held it up to the light, an image of Alfred E. Neuman would appear. Or his Tall Tales strips. Or the fact that he was drawing for several Golden Age books long before MAD was even around.

He was in all respects a legend. I’m glad he lived such a long life and see how much everyone loved him and appreciated his work.

So long, Al.

This site could have been solely a “Death of Superman” blog, you realize.

§ February 8th, 2023 § Filed under death of superman, obituary § 7 Comments

So reading digital comics paid off…by getting a special print edition as a prize! I subscribe to DC Universe Infinite, DC Comics’ online digital library, which comes in handy when I need a scan from a DC book not in my possession, or when I want to, say, reread a bunch of Animal Man without trying to figure out where my copies are in my currently-in-disarray Vast Comics Archives.

Specifically, I subscribe to the “Ultra” level, giving you wider access to DC’s library, along with special offers and freebies…like this free variant edition trade paperback of the 30th anniversary edition of Death of Superman with art by Ivan Reis:

And here’s the back cover…note, no UPC code or cover price:

Inside the front cover, which I didn’t scan here because doing so would likely screw up the book, is a text introduction thanking recipients of this item for being DC Universe Infinite Subscribers, ballyhooing that this edition is exclusive to said subscribers, how great the digital service is, etc.

The book itself contains, in case you can’t see it on the second scan above, the original “Death of Superman” story from the ’90s, plus the Newstime magazine one-shot (the in-universe Newsweek/Time news magazine), and the Day of Doom mini from the early 2000s. There are also several pages at the back, including images of the original art, photos of related promotional material and merchandise, sketches, and even a nice clear shot of the editorial whiteboard used to plan out the story (that I posted blurry pics of way back when, pulled from a DVD extra feature).

For some reason I was under the impression that this was going to be a variant for the recently-released 30th Anniversary Death of Superman Special. But this is nice too.

• • •

On a sad note, Pat, AKA “Jungle Kitty” of the Star-Trek-Especially-William Shatner “Look at His Butt” podcast, passed away recently. I have been a fan of the show since it first came to my attention back in 2006, even appearing as a guest on one episode. As such I always had a special place in my heart for this show and JK and her partner in Trek-crime Lene, and it’s hard to imagine that we won’t be getting any more of their shared discussion on the franchise.

It honestly was one of those cases where you tuned into the show and it sounded like you were just having a friendly and funny chat with your friends about stuff you really liked. I wrote a more extensive tribute to her and the show that Lene will be reading on the next, and likely final, episode of the podcast, so I won’t repeat it all here. But I can definitely say I’ll miss hearing her voice and her passion for all things Trek.

So long, JK.

I was in my early 20s when I sold the original…sigh.

§ November 14th, 2022 § Filed under death of superman, obituary § 12 Comments

So I briefly mentioned the release of the Death of Superman 30th anniversary comics last week, and wanted to dive into the topic just a tad bit more now that I’ve actually read the thing. “What, Mike talking about the Death of Superman? The devil you say!”

As I’d noted, I picked up the bagged version of the book, which featured this cover inside:

Boy, really pushing that “multiverse” thing. “Hey Marvel, we were here first!” Also, the back cover features the full image that’s on the foldout-cover variant of this comic. And yes, there is indeed a black armband inside, so you can…mourn the death of a fictional character who didn’t really die 30 years and had come back immediately anyway.

The lead story is by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, and pretty much retells the events of the original story, mixed in with a l”current time” plot involving the return of Doomsday…or is it? It’s…fine, perfunctory and polished and giving you pretty much what you’d want from a “30th Anniversary of the Death of Superman” story.

A few things of note:

One, Superman’s cuffs, a design leftover from all the misguided fiddling with the man’s costume over the last decade, and left off more often than not in recent comics, are totally back with a vengeance:

Given we get an editorial note that the story takes place in “the not-too distant past” maybe this is just during a period before Supes dumped the cuffs (or at least stopped wearing them as often). In conclusion, they still look terrible. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Two, it takes place before Jon Kent was aged into young adulthood, so a lot of this story is in the context of telling Young Jon all about this event in his parents’ lives that apparently he’d somehow never heard of ’til today. Which seems…unlikely. I mean, I get Supes and Lois not wanting to tell him about it ’til he was older, but, like, Superman is the most famous hero in the DCU, and Jon almost certainly looked up his dad on Lexipedia to see what it said about him. And you think Lexipedia isn’t going to have a long, lurid and loving description of Superman’s apparent death at the hands of Doomsday? C’mon, son.

Three, there sure is a lot of dialogue being shouted at Superman from the sidelines during his big battle. I mean, I guess that’s realistic an’ all, but all I could think of was “all these dummies are in huge danger.”

Four, speaking of the fight, like in the original ’90s comics, the number of panels per page during the fight decreases as it moves long, ending in a series of splash pages. Nice callback.

Five, it’s also an appreciated throwback to How Superman Comics Used to Be. I miss seeing these particular versions of the characters, with their specific personalities, and using supporting characters (like Terrible Turpin) that we hadn’t seen in a bit. Post-Crisis/Early ’90s Superman had a specific look to them, and it’s hard not to contrast them with the Superman books DC is currently producing.

And I’ll drop the numbered item conceit here and note that one of the things I’ve wondered about re: Superman continuity, given the reboots and revamps we’ve had over the last decade or so, was the canonicity of the Death of Superman. I mean, there were references here and there and then eventually a confirmation that it did happen, but never did find out the exact details. Like, was Australian Son of Luthor But Actually Luthor’s Brain in a Younger Body a thing that happened in the New 52 universe, y’know, like that.

Well, this special pretty much establishes that the Death of Superman happened more or less as seen in the comics from 30 years ago, in whatever passes for current DC continuity nowadays. There are other stories in this special that are set in the Superman milieu circa the early ’90s, like a Steel story by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove. And we get some Ma and Pa Kent, though I think the “current” versions of them are portrayed a bit younger than the grandparent-ish types we got when Byrne rebooted everything. I don’t know, maybe something like what happened in this comic also happened to them. (Or maybe Dr. Manhattan did something when they came back in Doomsday Clock, but don’t get me started.)

I’m sure there’s more to say, but I’ll probably get to it when I address some of your comments from the last post (and probably this post) in my next entry. Oh, did I mention that the bagged version has a white backing board inserted inside that makes the package too big to fit on anything but the top shelf of my new comic racks? That’s annoying.

• • •

There are two voices for Batman that I hear in my head when reading the comics. There’s Adam West, who tends to pop into my head when I’m looking at some of the Silver Age stuff. And then there’s Kevin Conroy, the man who became the Batman to generations of fans. No offense to other great voice artists who’ve taken on the role, but whenever I’d watch one of those direct-to-DVD DC cartoons and it wasn’t Conroy in the Batman role, it just sounded…off to me. He embodied the character in a way so few others have.

We lost him too soon, dying recently at the age of 66. A tragic loss, and my condolences to his family, his friends, and his nearly-endless array of fans. So long, Kevin..

Kevin O’Neill (1953 – 2022).

§ November 9th, 2022 § Filed under obituary § 4 Comments

Legendary omics artist Kevin O’Neill has passed away, leaving behind beautiful work like Nemesis the Warlock, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Marshal Law, and much more. Of special note is, of course, the artwork he provided for The Sinister Ducks.

And as I love reminding folks, his artwork — not just what he drew, but his actual stylewas rejected by the Comics Code Authority when they saw his contribution to Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 (sample of which may be found above). DC published it away without the Code because screw the CCA, the art’s great.

So long, Kevin.

“Any Time Is Toad Time.”

§ June 17th, 2022 § Filed under from the vast Mikester comic archives, obituary § 6 Comments

Added another old comic to the personal collection this week, the relatively hard-to-find 1970 underground Tales of Toad by a pre-Zippy the Pinhead Bill Griffith:

It’s one of those comics I’ve kinda/sorta wanted to get, though all three issues of this series was reprinted in a good-sized anthology book of Griffith’s material some years back. But it’s nice to have The Original Thing…it’s like my semi-ongoing attempts to acquire the first 25 issues of Cerebus that I already have in the Swords of Cerebus reprint books.

Anyway, since I got a #1 in my hands, I went ahead and kept the 2nd issue that I’ve had floating around the shop for some time. Now I just need a #3 to show up eventually. I remember at the previous place of employment we had all three issues, and I probably should’ve picked ’em up then. But I also think that about the two copies of Cerebus #1 we had (original and counterfeit) and oh well.

• • •

I wanted to acknowledge the passing of comics artist Tim Sale, probably most famous for Batman: The Long Halloween, but I’m more a Superman: For All Seasons fan myself.

A unique talent whose contributions to the medium were always a special event. He’ll be missed.

I also saw that Everett Peck, probably best known in comics for Duckman, passed away this week.

I remember getting this in at the shop back in 1990, thinking “huh, what the heck is this” and taking a copy. Very weird and funny, and I was probably just as surprised as Peck was when it became an animated TV show. I honestly didn’t know much about him, so that article I linked was quite informative as to his actual breadth of work.

It’s a hard week for losing unique talents…my condolences to the friends, families, and fans of both Sale and Peck.

George Pérez (1954-2022).

§ May 9th, 2022 § Filed under obituary § 6 Comments

This may be my favorite George Pérez cover, with all these villains just crammed together, all lovingly rendered, all exuding personality and menace, and not feeling crowded or cluttered at all. The coloring job by Anthony Tollin certainly helped, of course, but George’s layout made this cover fun when others might have ended up with an eyesore.

The first Pérez cover I ever saw, far as I can recall, was this issue of Logan’s Run:

I picked it up off the stands when it was new and I was about 7 years old. I hadn’t seen the movie yet…it opened in the summer of ’76 and I won’t see it ’til it hits whatever our pre-HBO pay cable station we had in Port Hueneme a few years later (Cinema 6, I believe it was called). But I’m sure I’d heard of the movie, at least, knowing it was science fiction-y, and that cover intrigued me enough to pester a parent to purchase it for me.

Just the other day I was processing some back issues, and came across the “Who Is Donna Troy?” issue of New Teen Titans. And I did something I never do at the shop: I stopped what I was doing and reread this issue for the first time in many years. No superhero fights, just Dick Grayson doing detective work trying to discover the hidden past of his friend Donna. Coplotted by George and the regular writer, Marv Wolfman, the story still holds up, still hits as hard as it did back when it was released in 1984. Marv’s dialogue still rides high on the melodrama, but that’s a feature, not a bug, and this beautifully-drawn issue hasn’t aged a day. I mean, we’d seen it in the series before, but George really hammers home that he can deliver emotional punches on the page just as well as the “knocking down buidings/in bad guys’ faces” kind.

I posted a bit about Pérez’s work late last year, wanting to get that out there while the man was still with us, much like how they wanted that JLA/Avengers reprint out sooner rather than later. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the work he’s done, the influence he’s had. I didn’t even mention his long run on Wonder Woman, revitalizing the character after DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths event. Or his eminently entertaining run on Avengers with Kurt Busiek. Or Sachs and Violens with Peter David. Or the “Beatles Life Story” issue of Marvel Super Special he drew. No, really. (Okay, he didn’t do the cover, but still.)

He was an immensely talented, extremely influential, and by all accounts very big-hearted man. He will be missed. So long, George.

from New Teen Titans #20 (June 1982)

Neal and Ivy.

§ May 2nd, 2022 § Filed under obituary § 3 Comments

As I’m sure you heard, legendary comics creator Neal Adams has passed away at the age of 80, which is pretty shocking to those of us who thought that he was just so embedded in the DNA of comics that it was impossible for him to, you know, suddenly not be around anymore.

And of course, he is still around, in that his best work continues to be reprinted again and again, particularly on Batman and Deadman. His dynamic style showing up in Marvel and DC comics at the tail end of the 1960s almost seemed to spark the feeling in other budding comic artists “wait…we can do comics like that?” Since then, his artistic influence has spread to even today, casting a shadow nearly as long as Jack Kirby’s.

I know some hay has been made about his…odd “scientific” “theories” — I’ve toted a couple of those bales myself — and let’s just kinda let those remain one of those eccentricities creative types occasionally have.

And sure, maybe some of his work wasn’t on the “redefining Batman for all time” scale:

…but that’s okay! The man did what he wanted to do, on his own terms, trying out his ideas and still keeping active even up ’til the end of his life. Most importantly, he was an avid defender of creator rights in the industry. You can thank Neal for helping DC, um, “remember” Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman and that they should put their credit on every comic, movie and TV show.

Thanks for everything Neal, even all the weird stuff. Especially all the weird stuff. You were an inspiration to generations of artists and will almost certainly continue to be. So long, Neal.

• • •

We also lost this weekend Ivy Ratafia McLeod, the partner of cartoonist/comics scholar Scott McCloud. Unlike Neal, whom I only knew through his work and interviews and such, I had actually met Ivy many times over the years. She and Scott didn’t live too far away from either my old job or my current store, and they would pop in from time to time to say hello. She was always a very charming and delightful person, and it was my great pleasure to have spent any time with her. My deepest condolences to Scott and their family on this untimely loss.

Garry Leach (1954 – 2022).

§ March 30th, 2022 § Filed under miraclemarvelman, obituary § 5 Comments

Admittedly, I bought that Miracleman #1 Eclipse put out in 1985 because I was totally in the bag for Alan Moore comics. Knowing he had a whole big thing going on in England long before he wowed me my beloved Swamp Thing comic made me want to get my mitts on anything that eventually made it over the ocean and into my local shop.

That first issue of Miracleman did not disappoint, seeing Moore take a Captain Marvel (“Shazam,” to you young folks) clone and work what was to me mostly (cough) unprecedented twists on classic genre formulas.

But what stuck with me the most from that first issue, what seared into my brain and made me anticipate the following issue more than just about any other comic I’ve ever read, was this pic right here:

Miracleman’s former young partner, Kid Miracleman, having never said his “magic” word to change back to his normal human identity of Johnny Bates, is now grown up, his superpowered body having evolved into something terrifying as it aged. There he is, just hanging in the air, charged with energy, leering at his intended victims, made all the more terrifying because he’s just wearing regular people clothes, not a skintight emblem-adorned costume with a flowing cape.

Who drew that image? Who was responsible for putting that weirdly offputting yet compelling scenario into my eyeballs, making me ponder it for a month as I awaited the next chapter, making me remember it even now, nearly forty years later?

That Garry Leach fella, that’s who.

He was only on the Miracleman (or as it known originally, and I’m sure you already know, “Marvelman”) stories for a few installments, before Alan Davis took over. However, he established the look, the dark, mundane, and near-depressing world of the strip, where the garishly-clothed Miracleman should stand out in stark contrast, but still feels…reduced, in a way, pulled into the real world and away from the kid’s comics in which he was born. A brilliant trick, one that definitely sold the kind of story Moore was trying to tell.

Of course Leach did far more than these Marvel/Miracleman strips, but it was this comic that had the greatest impact on me. Someone on Twitter had posted the two pages that lead up to that pic above, in the original black and white printing as it appeared in Warrior in the UK, and those 40 years between seeing Eclipse’s color reprint and today just washed away. It was like seeing it again for the first time…just as powerful as it ever was.

Thanks, Garry, and so long.

Oddly, no Amazing Spider-Man covers featuring photos of Steve Ditko.

§ May 21st, 2021 § Filed under obituary, publishing § 1 Comment

So y’all had some good suggestions for nice photo covers in the comments for Wednesday’s post, which I appreciate. I especially appreciate Rob Staeger’s reminder that Sandman Mystery Theatre had photo covers for its entire long-ish run, certainly an unusual accomplishment in modern comics. Or this cover noted by BobH with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

But here comes customer Sean with a comic I wasn’t aware of…Stan Lee cosplaying as the Black Rider on issue #8 of that title from 1950:

You can Read More About It here on this Stan Lee site.

I mean, just gaze helplessly into the steely stare of Stan the Man, all masked up before it was cool:

Speaking of ol’ Stan, Eric brings up the Marvel Fumetti Book from 1984 that has him on the cover:

Thanks to the Bullpen Bulletins in every Marvel mag, plus stuff like the in-house news/previews ‘zine Marvel Age, and just the general editorial shenanigans at Marvel since the get-go, the staff and creators at Marvel were more or less known personalities by the readers. Thus, a collection of photo gags starring the folks behind the comics was something they could probably pull off. I wonder if DC could have done something similar at the time? Maybe a bunch of photo-gags starring Wolfman and Perez, or Curt Swan hanging out with Superman (I mean, in “real life,” not in the story in that last panel here), or Alan Moore terrifying the suits around the DC offices…that sort of thing.

Of course prior to that was Fandom Confidential, a photo strip that ran in The Comic Reader and Comic Buyer’s Guide. But perhaps we’re going a little astray from the simple pleasures of just plain ol’ comic book photo covers. Like this one, which isn’t weird at all.

• • •

Also wanted to note the passing of David Anthony Kraft, publisher of the wonderful Comics Interview magazine, as well as the writer of several swell comics (including, very briefly, some of the original ’70s Swamp Thing). Mark Evanier has some nice words to say here. My condolences, of course, to his family, friends, and fans.

Richard Corben (1940 – 2020).

§ December 11th, 2020 § Filed under obituary, undergrounds § 4 Comments

So I got a copy of Rowlf #1 at the shop a while back in absolutely beautiful condition. It wasn’t Near Mint, but whatever minor flaws it had did nothing to detract from the visual appeal of this cover…the second printing, by the way, as the first print had a different image. It’s certainly the first image that popped into my head when I heard that Richard Corben passed away this week at the age of 80.

The first time I encountered Corben’s art was in an early ’80s issue of Heavy Metal, at a time when I was clearly too young to be looking at this magazine. Lush, fully painted art while still being cartoonishly exaggerated…it was some of his fantasy work, in the same arena as, say, Frazetta and Vallejo, but where they were more in the realm of representational illustration, more or less, here was that weirdo Corben basically doing Tex Avery, with the Wolf’s eyes bugging out of his head and his tongue dragging on the floor. It was a strange mix of styles I hadn’t seen before and had rarely, if ever, seen since.

He’s an underground comix legend, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this. When people come to my store looking for undergrounds, more and more often they ask to see my “Crumb comics,” which can mean anything from actual Robert Crumb comics to Freak Brothers to, well, whatever you can think of. I’ve suggested before that “Crumb comics” may be well on its way to becoming a generic term for undergrounds. That said, the second most mentioned name from those looking for undergrounds is Corben. In fact, if anything, any Corben I get in tends to sell faster than my Crumb (I mean, actually by Crumb) books. A largish collection of Corben I took in earlier in the year was gone within just a few weeks. Demand is still high for his work, and his name still looms large among a certain segment of comics fans.

In recent years he seemed to be more active working for Marvel and DC, which, well, one has to go where the money is, but his work for these companies was no less idiosyncratic than his independent projects. The Hellblazer run he did over Brian Azzarello’s scripts, and worked with that same writer on a Hulk mini, and did some horror books for Marvel and Dark Horse…that garnered him some all new fans, certainly, who’d never seen Den.

He was a strange and unique talent, and I’m sure we’re all sad to see him go, but glad he shared as much of his imagination with us that he did.

So long, Richard.

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